I sometimes get asked why my sermons so frequently engage so-called "culture war" issues. Here are some reasons why:
1. What if the culture war is actually much more than a culture war? What if the culture war is really proxy for the kind of spiritual war Paul describes in Ephesians 6? What if the culture war is really a battle over spiritual allegiances? Obviously, not every divisive issue in our culture rises to that level. But many do. For example, abortion is not just a cultural or social or political issue. It is ultimately a spiritual and even liturgical issue. Abortion is nothing less than child sacrifice, offering up innocent little ones to Molech on the altar of convenience, comfort, and career. In opposing abortion, we are waging war against the principalities and powers, evil forces of darkness in high places. But abortion is not the only issue that works this way. Many issues that get framed as cultural, social, political, or economic are actually spiritual, liturgical, and theological. The reality is that the culture war and the spiritual war are almost indistinguishable at this point in our history. To opt out of the culture war is actually an act of cowardly surrender to the principalities and powers. It is to retreat precisely when our Lord has commanded us to advance, to charge the enemy, to take the battering ram of the gospel to the gates of hell. The ironic thing is that while many on the left are starting to recognize the religious nature of the culture war, many Christians still naively deny it.
2. In 1 Timothy 4, Paul warns Timothy about demonic doctrines infiltrating the church. What are these demonic doctrines? The false teachers were forbidding people to marry and to eat certain foods. But if Paul could see false teaching about such mundane realities as marriage and diet to be aspects of spiritual warfare, surely many of the so-called culture war issues in our day fall into the same category. We must recognize that gender ideology, critical race theory, feminism, socialism, and so on, are all doctrines of demons. They frustrate God's design for humanity the same way the false teachers in 1 Timothy 4 were doing. We must fight against these satanic teachings in the pulpit as well as out of the pulpit. And, yes, this means we should view progressivism/leftism as demonic doctrine. This does not mean everyone advocating these doctrines is demon possessed or any such thing (though some undoubtedly are), but it does mean these views arise from an anti-God spirit. Take gender ideology as an example. Some gender fluid persons use plural pronouns, reminiscent of the legion of demons that inhabited the man in Mark 5. The bodily mutilation that transgenderism requires is significantly similar to pagan rituals. And some transgenders have been very explicit about the connection between witchcraft, Satan worship, and leftwing politics.
Of course, our ministry cannot be characterized only by what we are against. As has been said, to fight a culture war, you have to have a culture. And so it is just as important that we build a positive vision of what we are for — namely, the next Christendom. But note that when our civilization finally collapses into rubble, those who best understood what rotted it away from the inside will be in the best position to rebuild it.
3. In terms of preaching and teaching on these issues, the faithful pastor has an obligation to do so because Scripture does. Many so-called culture war issues are directly addressed by biblical teaching (marriage, sex, and gender issues; racism/partiality; the role of the state and the way to care for the poor; etc.). 
Most modern evangelical and Reformed preaching is very therapeutic. It focuses on the individual — his needs, his experiences, his sins, his challenges, his life. Certainly, faithful biblical preaching will address the individual heart, and call on individuals to trust Christ, repent from sin, etc. But the overall message of the Bible is far bigger than this. The Bible gives us an overarching view of the cosmos and history. It gives us broad redemptive-historical categories. It tells the true story of the world. It is just as concerned with national experiences as individual experiences. Pick up a Bible and read virtually any of the prophets: You will find the prophets continually talking about the nations, their sins, their idols, and their need to repent, just as much as (if not more than) you find them talking about the individual heart. It is the same with the psalms. Calvin rightly called the psalter an “anatomy of the human soul.” But it is also anatomy of kingdoms and empires. If the Psalms were only concerned with individual experiences, there would be no need for imprecatory psalms. Those psalms are about enemies, but their spiritual enmity manifests itself in political and cultural ways. The prayers/songs of the psalter blend personal piety with political and cultural piety. Thus, any sharp divide between the culture war and the spiritual war is unbiblical. The culture is a spiritual reality. The culture is shot through with theological issues. Ultimately, culture is formed by what we worship. So culture wars are always about more than just the culture, narrowly considered. Our cultural divides are deep divides, rooted in what we what we worship and what we love.
Churches that are under the influence of liberalism and progressivism (if they can still be called churches) preach on political issues, but disregard the Bible as they do so. They have no spiritual message to preach, and their social message is completely dominated with the agenda of the anti-God, anti-Biblical American left. But churches on the right often preach only a message of individual salvation. While that is much better, it is still not fully adequate. We need to preach the whole counsel of God, which necessarily means preaching on cultural and political topics.
4. Preaching culture war issues is critical to doing cultural apologetics. Cultural apologetics is an important aspect of discipleship. It makes church members into sons of Issachar, who understand the times and therefore know what the people of God should do. Preaching biblically and boldly on these issues grows people in understanding and wisdom.
A significant aspect of wisdom is foresight — not that the wise can foresee the future in detail, but they can discern where current trajectories will lead. In the year 2022, it has become painfully obvious many conservative evangelicals in the 1980s and 1990s were exactly right about where our culture is headed. (Perhaps many of us owe them an apology for thinking they were overreacting?) One by one, things that were once unthinkable have become realities. And if you question the new morality, expect to be canceled. Truths everyone accepted as common sense fifteen minutes ago are now disdained as barbaric.
Because wisdom gives foresight, it is pre-emptive. Preaching on cultural issues, showing where the current cultural trajectories will lead, helps the church exercise a role of cultural leadership. To put it in Edwin Friedman’s terms, a church that has been trained to understand the trends and direction of culture can be anticipatory and pre-emptive, rather than just reactive. It took the church well over a decade to really understand what the Roe ruling of 1973 meant. Many in the church were much quicker to understand what the Oberegefell ruling would mean, and were able to predict it before it even happened.
5. We have to distinguish the way we handle positions we critique and oppose in a sermon from the way we treat those people who advocate the very ideas/practices we are preaching against. While numerous issues have been politicized, that does not mean we have to politicize all our relationships. We can distinguish cultural movements and forces from the persons who are caught up in them. We can distinguish how we respond to a movement insitutionally from how we respond to it at a personal level.
Thus: I can oppose same sex “marriage” even while loving a gay couple that lives next door. Disagreeing with someone is not the same as hating them. If they are enemies in the culture war, remember, Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. I can oppose the transgender movement, with all its political and cultural implications, while still having compassion towards those who suffer from gender dysphoria. I can point out the wretched results of feminism, or the welfare state, or critical race theory, while showing kindness to those who hold to these very positions in my neighborhood or workplace. Just as disagreeing with someone's positions or lifestyle does not mean I hate them, loving my neighbor does not mean I approve of everything he believes or does.
At the same time, it is important to not be naive. Just because we show kindness to those we disagree with, just because we are winsome (to use a favorite evangelical buzz word) in how we speak truth to them, does not mean we will escape their ire. At one point in our history (during what Aaron Renn calls the “neutral world,” which ended about 2014), Christians could expect relatively fair treatment in most situations in our culture. That is no longer the case. It is simply impossible for Christians to gain acceptance or preserve respectability while holding to biblical positions on sexuality, among other things. So we must be prepared for pushback. It will come.
6. Evangelicals did not invent the culture war in the last thirty years. Christians, at least mature Christians, have always understood that the Christian faith is an embodied, and therefore culturally incarnate, faith, and that the kingdom of God's conflict with the kingdom of Satan can be manifest in historical, political, and cultural ways. Consider a brief historical survey of the culture war:
Jesus established the culture war in new covenant form when he gave the Great Commission. Discipling the nations means doing battle with the false gods of the nations. It means converting nations and teaching people how God's Word applies to all of life. To back away from the culture war in order to save souls is to truncate the Great Commission, robbing it of its greatness. It fails to do justice to the authority over heaven and earth that has been granted to Jesus. Why engage in the culture war? Because Jesus is Lord. And because he told us to. A culture war is the inevitable result of the church undertaking the Great Commission.
The apostles involved themselves in a culture war by directly challenging the pretentious claims of Caesar. Their announcement, “Jesus is Lord,” was a direct threat to Caesar’s claim to lordship. This is why they were accused of treason against the empire (cf. Acts 17). When Peter declared in Acts 4:12, "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we may be saved,” he was actually paraphrasing the decree of Augustus Caesar, who declared in 17 BC, “Salvation is to be found in no other but Augustus, and there is no other name given to men in which they can be saved.” Peter obviously substituted Jesus’ name for Augustus’ name. And no doubt, Peter had a different understanding of the kind of salvation in view. But Peter’s announcement makes no sense unless he understood that Jesus is Lord over all. And precisely because he is Lord over all, all of culture and all nations are to be discipled in terms of his Word. You could say Peter was firing some of the first shots in the culture war between God’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom, a war that continues down to the very present. If you were to ask Peter if his message was religious or political, he would not have understood the question; the religious was totally intertwined with the social, cultural, and political.
The early Christians in the post-apostolic era were persecuted because they would not burn a pinch of incense to Caesar. They did not conform to the customs and ways of the Roman Empire, particularly when it came to sex and money, which made them easy targets. But had they wanted to avoid persecution, they could have done so by downplaying those issues that made them stand out. They could have avoided persecution by becoming culturally invisible. They were not persecuted because they worshiped Jesus; the Romans cared little about which gods were worshipped in their empire. They were persecuted because they were against worshiping the state. In other words, the were early Christian culture warriors, and stood firm on the issues of the day, even if it cost them their lives.
Augustine’s City of God is one of the greatest works of cultural apologetics and cultural warfare in the history of the church. Augustine wrote to expose the moral corruption of Rome, rooted in its idolatry, and to defend Christians against the charge that they were to blame for the collapse of the empire. Augustine wrote as a critic of Rome, starting with its founding myth, showing that a society built upon fratricide could never be stable, or serve as a source of peace and justice. It is interesting to consider the balance of Augustine. He wrote Confessions to tap into the heart of Christian experience at the personal level. In City of God, he complemented Confessions by looking at the big, historical, cultural, and political picture, examining how God has worked across the generations to establish his “city” over and against man’s “city” (which is really Satan’s city). Every society is based on a common good, and a common good requires a common love. Augustine explains Rome is fraying because the empire is divided against itself. As Augustine explains, the city of man is organized around the loves of fallen man. The city of man seeks to satisfy man's disordered lusts. By contrast, the city of God is rooted in love for God, and a desire to satisfy his will. Augustine believes men will always "become what they love." Thus, the conflict of the ages is a conflict of loves. Augustine sees the two cities as locked in a comprehensive battle -- a totalizing culture war -- that will endure until the last day. Augustine's work undoubtedly marks him out as one of the greatest culture warriors in church history. His work gives us a paradigm for understanding all cultural conflict.
The Reformers were culture warriors. They were wrestling for the soul of Christendom. But their battles were not just theological or liturgical. They were cultural and political and social as well. For example, Martin Luther very clearly saw his marriage to Katie as an act of spiritual warfare. When the former monk married the former nun, Luther said he gave “a roundhouse kick to the devil in the snout.” Calvin addressed his Institutes to the King of France. He was not only writing a systematic handbook of theology; he was writing a work of political theology with wide-ranging cultural ramifications. The heirs of his project in the new world implemented his principles in the War for American Independence. The formation of America happened largely because Christians were willing to turn a culture war into a hot war, with real fighting and real bloodshed. They understood that the Christian faith cultivates a love for freedom and a hatred of tyranny. 
By historic standards, American evangelicals of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have been pretty tame culture warriors. 

7. I preach on culture war issues for the sake of the children. In fact one thing I have noticed over the years is that those with children are usually (though not always) much more concerned with culture war issues than those without children. And those who have older children (teenagers) are much more concerned than those with younger children. Wise parents will realize that the world they are preparing their children to enter is hostile to them and their faith. And they will want their children thoroughly equipped. I pity the covenant child who is sent off to college without a firm understanding of how feminism has helped wreck the family, or how critical race theory is actually a deeply racist ideology. I have seen many kids left unprepared who have fallen away from the faith the first time they experienced a real challenge.
It is important to understand the culture war is largely a war over who will disciple the next generation. Secularists hardly have any children. Between abortion, homosexuality, and a burgeoning anti-natalism movement (based largely on terrible “climate science”), non-Christians have very few children. But that means if they are going to have a future, they must take our children. Why did the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus sing “we’re coming for your children”? Whatever they might claim after the fact, it was not a joke. Why is Disney so intent on sexualizing children with their content? Why do Florida’s progressive public school teachers react so strongly to a bill that would forbid exposing very young school children to sexual matters? Why have so many public school boards across the country exploded over the teaching of critical race theory in the classroom? It’s because, with the birth rate dropping to record lows, children have become a scarce commodity. We fight over children because children represent the future. Whoever disciples the children will win the future. 
The fact that conservative Christians have more children than most other groups in the culture is a hopeful sign, but it only matters if we actually keep our children in the fold of the faith. If the world captures them, they will fight on the wrong side of the great battle of history. We can only win by “outbreeding” the enemy if our children are truly straight and sharp arrows in the quiver of their fathers (Psalm 127). In the long run, the only hope progressives have of winning the culture war is to capture and corrupt our children, which is why the public school system and universities are so important to them. Of course, they can also count on Hollywood, the pop music industry, and social media to aid their cause. Christian father, are you awake to what is happening to the world your child is going into? Christian mother, do you realize what the world is seeking to do with your children? You may be uninterested in the culture war, but the culture war is interested in your children. Even if you have become wary and weary of the culture wars, fight them for the sake of your children. Your children will be culture warriors; the oinly question is which side they will be fighting on.
We need to understand that Satan counterfeits everything good. The left has its own version of theonomy (they want the will of their god to be legislated), postmillennialism (they fight the culture war to win it, with optimism and a sense of inevitability about their cause), and covenantalism (they claim the next generation as their own, and aim to indoctrinate kids into their perverted worldview). We can only fight back with the weapons of true theonomy, postmillennialism, and covenantalism. We fight the culture war by obeying God's law in every area of life, trusting in God's plan of kingdom growth, and claiming God's promises to and about our children.
Many of us have wondered what lurks under the "+" sign in the LGBTQ+ movement. Many of us have suspected pedophilia would be the next domino of perversion to fall. There are now signs that the legitimizing of pedophilia is on the agenda. For our part, we must do all we can to protect children from sexual predators. That should include calling for the death penalty for child molesters. Jesus seemed to think those who abused children should have a millstone tied around their necks and be cast into a deep sea (Matthew 18:6). I agree.
8. All that being said, some conservatives do fight the culture war in dumb ways. Having Donald Trump into the pulpit is a good example of what not to do.

But that’s obviously not what we are doing at TPC (or the CREC more generally). We are seeking to fight the culture war with the spiritual weapons God has given us -- preaching, prayer, worship, psalms, and hymns. We will suffer and serve our way to victory. The sword that will slay the enemy comes from the mouth of the Messiah (Rev. 19).
9. If we are not supposed to preach on so-called culture war issues, what is left to preach? There are very few issues in our culture that have not been politicized. There are very few issues that are not connected to the culture war in some way.
If we are not supposed to preach on culture war issues, then marriage and sex cannot be preached because every aspect of marriage and sex have been swept up into the culture war. Obviously it is ridiculous to say these issues should not be taught on from the pulpit. A pastor who does not address marriage and sex is not a faithful pastor. But take something that might seem to be more distant from the culture wars, like anxiety. Preaching on anxiety might seem to be insulated from the culture war, but it's really not. As soon as we start preaching on anxiety, we are going to touch on issues of mental health, medication, and the causes of anxiety. Each one of these will get into culture war issues. We live in a culture that once stigmatized mental illness but now glorifies mental illness; surely the church must say something about that. The issue of medicating away anxiety and other emotional problems has been a hot topic in the culture since the Rolling Stones sang about it in their 1966 song, "Mother's Little Helper." The church has to say something about it. There are many reasons for increased anxiety in the culture today, ranging from family breakdown to social media use to incompetent leadership at virtually every level of government and society, and so it is impossible to separate the causes of anxiety from the wider problems facing our world. If we are going to cast our cares on the Lord who cares for us, we have to identify those cares, and that will undoubtedly run us into culture war territory.
Or take another example that may seem far removed from the culture wars but really isn't: Love of neighbor. It might seem like a pastor could preach on love of neighbor without getting entangled in the culture war. But for the last couple years, we have had leading evangelicals and many politicians from both sides of the aisle tell us that loving our neighbor requires shuttering the economy, canceling public worship services, socially distancing, not visiting the sick in hospitals or the elderly in retirement communities, receiving an experimental vaccine, and wearing a mask in public. Either love of neighbor requires these things or it does not, but it is impossible to remain neutral. The church will either meet or not. The church will either require masks or not. There's no way to avoid these issues.
That's really the bottom line: It is simply impossible to avoid the culture war. It is all pervasive. It has seeped into almost everything. There is no way a church's leadership or a pastor in his preaching can somehow avoid being a player in the culture war. The calling of the church is not to somehow transcend the culture war (that would likely turn us into Gnostics) but to fight the culture war faithfully.

10. I’ve had a number of people at TPC thank me for occasionally addressing these issues, basically telling me, “It’s good to be reminded from time to time that I am not crazy!” The world is going insane. It’s good to have regular reminders from the pulpit of what sanity looks like. Preaching should put people in touch with reality, especially in an age that has detached from it almost completely.